John Grierson

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Grierson, John


Born Apr. 26, 1898, at Deanston. British film director. Graduated from the University of Glasgow.

Grierson headed the motion-picture division of the Empire Marketing Board in 1928; in 1933 he joined the General Post Office. The Fishing Banks of Skye (about fishing for herring in the North Sea), made in 1929, laid the foundations for the British school of documentary films. Grierson considered film primarily as a means for investigating and truthfully reflecting reality. A group of directors (P. Rotha, B. Wright. H. Watt, A. Elton, and E. Anstey) rallied around him to create films that pioneered in cinematic form and realistically depicted the daily work of people from different professions and the difficult living conditions of the poor. Prominent directors such as R. Flaherty (Grierson made the film Industrial Britain with him in 1933). A. Cavalcanti, and J. Ivens joined Grierson’s group. Grierson’s work was greatly influenced by the art and theoretical views of S. M. Eisenstein, V. I. Pudovkin. and D. Vertov. From 1939 to 1946 he worked mainly abroad, promoting active use of the film documentary (especially in Canada). Grierson has been a producer since the 1950’s.


Trutko, I. “Ot pionerov do ’rasserzhennykh.’” In the collection Kino Velikobritanii. Moscow, 1970. Pages 31–35.
Hardy, F., ed. Grierson on Documentary. London. 1946.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
He also won the John Grierson prize for documentaries two years in a row.
John Grierson's own definition of a documentary, however, strays from that found in the dictionary.
Drifters, which Drifters originally premiered in 1929 alongside Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, was created by John Grierson - a pioneering Scottish filmmaker known for coining the term 'documentary.' The film follows the working day of a herring fishing fleet as they set sail from the Shetland Islands to battle the elements of the North Sea fishing grounds.
Obsessed with colour, movement and sounds, partly due to his synesthesia - a condition where music can appear to someone as colours - the young Norman switched his attention to films, and while at Glasgow, he encountered the legendary Scots director John Grierson, known as the father of documentary film.
Which term did director John Grierson coin for a factual film?
John Grierson, defending, told the court while his client accepted he had exposed himself, he denied the sex act and said there was no intention to aggravate the woman.
Focusing primarily on the United Kingdom, Western Europe, North America and the former Soviet Union, McLane provides detailed case studies of the pioneers of the documentary movement, such as Robert Flaherty (visual anthropology) and Dziga Vertov (Kino Pravda), Sergei Eisenstein (montage) and John Grierson (anti-aesthetic actuality).
Before watching the films, I'd naively assumed that John Grierson, who is praised on the jacket of the VHS tape, was wholly responsible for all three.
The result is a twist on one of the "father of documentary" John Grierson's favorite directives, "Tell a lie today so that it may become true tomorrow." Grierson, of course, was speaking about social documentaries, and his point was that an optimistic spin on reality might contribute to its improvement.
Film Unit received support for audio recording in 1934, and John Grierson, the Scottish filmmaker who led the unit, hired avant-garde filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti, who had made the city symphony Rien que les heures [Nothing but Time] (1926) and worked with Walter Ruttmann on Berlin (1927), as sound engineer to helm ambitious sound-cinematic experiments.